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Controversial serial killer's paintings go on display in Las Vegas

By the CNN Wire Staff
'Pogo the Clown' self-portrait was done by killer John Wayne Gacy, whose art is on sale in Las Vegas.
'Pogo the Clown' self-portrait was done by killer John Wayne Gacy, whose art is on sale in Las Vegas.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Exhibit coordinator: "I see it as an opportunity to help from something that was bad"
  • The exhibit of John Wayne Gacy's artwork includes a painting of Jeffrey Dahmer's skull
  • Gacy created the 74 pieces of art while he was on death row awaiting execution
  • Among the paintings expected to be displayed is a self-portrait that Gacy gave to pen-pals

For more on this story, see CNN affiliate KTNV

(CNN) -- A Las Vegas art coordinator's planned charity sale of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's paintings is under fire from the very crime victims group that is supposed to benefit from the proceeds.

The National Center for Victims of Crime is demanding that its name not be associated with the exhibit, entitled "Multiples: The Artwork of John Wayne Gacy," saying it did not agree to be a beneficiary of the sale.

In a written statement Thursday to CNN affiliate KTNV, the crime victims group said it sent a cease-and-desist letter to the gallery owner.

Since word spread that Gacy's work would be displayed at the Arts Factory beginning this month through September, the event has been surprisingly controversial in a city where very little surprises.

Westly Myles, the owner of the Arts Factory, said he opted to coordinate the show because he believed Gacy's work would provoke discussion and provide financial help to those who have been hurt by crime.

"People can think what they like, I see it as an opportunity to help from something that was bad," Myles said.

Gacy was convicted of raping and killing 33 boys and young men during a six-year span that culminated with his capture in 1978. Most of his victims were buried in and around his home.

He was dubbed "the Killer Clown" because he often performed as "Pogo the Clown" at events for children.

While awaiting execution, Gacy began painting.

After his execution in 1994, his attorney auctioned off his artwork.

Some of it was purchased and destroyed in a bonfire attended by 300 people, including some family members of Gacy's victims.

Gacy's paintings have often generated controversy in galleries across the nation.

"Multiples: The Artwork of John Wayne Gacy," is meant to reflect the multiple aspects of his life, according to johnwaynegacyart.com, a website set up to promote the show.

"We are familiar with multiple aspects of Gacy's story. He worked multiple jobs, lived multiple lives and committed multiple crimes," the site said. "What we are unfamiliar with is the art Gacy created while awaiting execution: multiple paintings."

Seventy-four pieces will be put up for sale at the Las Vegas exhibition. They include pencil drawings and audio recordings, and paintings of skulls, clowns and the seven dwarves from the Snow White fairy tale.

Included among the collection is an oil painting entitled "Dahmer Skull," which is price at $2,000 and was inspired by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

But perhaps the most controversial piece is a self-portrait entitled "Goodbye Pogos" listed at $4,500.

Gacy reportedly gave these portraits to "close pen-pals at the end of his life," according the website.

Also for sale, according to the site, are reproduction and merchandising rights to Gacy's artwork.

Myles said the proceeds would be divided evenly among the charities. If the crime victims group doesn't want the money, Myles said he would find another organization to donate the proceeds.

Meanwhile, two other organizations named as beneficiaries of the sale say they are reconsidering accepting the money. .

"I think anyone would be pretty creeped out by it," Anne Mulford, the board president of the Contemporary Arts Center, told KTNV.

The Contemporary Arts Center, a nonprofit gallery, is among those to receive monies from the sale.

"I'll just be honest with you, that's how I feel, I don't want to see the art," Mulford said.